Tuesday 28 March 2017

UNICEF chief rejects offer of live radio debate with Melanie

Melanie Verwoerd: backers include actor Liam Neeson. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Melanie Verwoerd: backers include actor Liam Neeson. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor

UNICEF Ireland refused to take part in a live radio debate with former executive director Melanie Verwoerd to discuss the reasons for her sacking, the Irish Independent has learned.

Ms Verwoerd agreed to take part in an on-air discussion with her former employers. However, UNICEF Ireland declined the offer.

Source close to Ms Verwoerd last night said the mother of two had been keen to clear up various "inaccuracies" reported about the circumstances of her dismissal.

However, she would only agree to the debate -- which was to take place last week on Today FM's 'The Last Word' programme -- if UNICEF Ireland chairman Paul Connolly represented the charity.

"UNICEF declined because it does not think a radio debate was the appropriate forum for this matter," a spokesman for UNICEF said.

'The Last Word' presenter Matt Cooper admitted he was disappointed by UNICEF's response.

"We would have loved the opportunity to have them thrash out the issues, so that people could make up their own minds as to the merits of both sides, but a spokesman for UNICEF said there was no way they would take part," the broadcaster told the Irish Independent.

Ms Verwoerd has indicated she will now "reluctantly" push ahead with her plan to take her former employer to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, despite calls from the charity for an "amicable resolution" to their bitter row.

The 43-year-old claims she was dismissed because of her relationship with the late RTE broadcaster Gerry Ryan, but the charity denies this.

It is understood comments made by Ms Verwoerd about her late partner to the Irish Independent at the launch of a UNICEF report on June 7 brought matters to a head, when they allegedly overshadowed reports of a UNICEF publicity trip involving golfer Rory McIlroy to the devastated island of Haiti.

However, Ms Verwoerd only responded to personal questions about her relationship after she spoke at length about the findings of the UNICEF report.

Irish Independent

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